Many years ago, I was visiting a friend who showed me PostSecret. We spent an afternoon talking and scrolling through the blog which contained pictures of postcards people sent in with their deepest secrets scrawled on the back. Some were interesting; some were shocking; some were funny and all were anonymous. Later,I heard PostSecret launched an iPhone app. Unfortunately the app was overwhelmed by abusive comments and inappropriate pictures. In 2012, it was shut down. Now a new app, Whisper, is trying to recreate the PostSecret magic.
Whisper is a free app where people post anonymous thoughts and confessions. It is not a social network like Facebook or Twitter. Whisper users have no profile and there are no followers or friends. Users are only identified by a nickname and their location. Whispers appear on 4 public feeds: Popular, Nearby, Latest and Featured. People connect by liking a whisper (clicking on the heart) or replying (usually with your own whisper). They can also try to start a private conversation by sending a direct message.
Each feed has a different tone to its whispers. The Featured and Popular feeds remind me of PostSecret. Generally, these feeds have more funny or heartfelt confessions. The Featured feed is moderated and the Popular feed is based on the whispers with the most hearts and comments. I found the Nearby feed containing whispers within 20 miles or the unvetted Latest feed contain the more questionable whispers. Here, you will see far more pleas for hooking up or asking for a nude photo.
Whisper also has some of the same problems as the original PostSecret app. Replies to whispers about suicidal thoughts or self harm are some times cruel. While people enjoy their anonymity, they are not always respectful of other’s privacy. Anonymous users can post mean comments about other people identifying them by both name and location. Unfortunately, there have been a few reports of bullying with this app. The CEO has stated in numerous interviews, he wants to keep the content respectful. To this end, Whisper does employ moderators and encourages users to flag and report inappropriate content.
If your teen is asking about Whisper, here is what you need to know.
Rating is 17+ – This app is rated 17+ and there is a clear prompt before downloading that this app is for 17 and older. The CEO of Whisper says only 4% of users are under 18. If your teen is on Whisper they are in an adult environment.
Location – The app automatically includes your location with each whisper. People can turn off location by clicking at the top of the whisper and choosing (don’t show my location). On my phone this did not work. My location still appeared on my whisper and in the Nearby feed. The only way I found not to include my location was to turn off the geolocation settings on my phone.
Private Messaging – Whisper’s tag line is “Express Yourself – Share Secrets – Meet New People.” How you meet new people is by sending a private message. Like Kik and “kikme”, you see whispers asking for people to send them a private message or “PM” them. If you have a kid under 17 on this app, the messages they receive are most likely from adults. If they receive a message from an anonymous user, they can block them by going to their inbox and swiping the conversation. Here, they will see an option to delete the conversation or ban the user.
Reporting – Whisper wants to avoid the fate of PostSecret’s app. Users can flag an inappropriate whisper by tapping on the flag in the upper right hand corner. If multiple users flag a whisper it is removed. Whisper states it has a zero tolerance policy towards defamation or any other forms of bullying. Users can send an email to Support@whisper.sh with information on what the post said, the username, and a screenshot so it can remove it as well as permanently ban the user who posted it.
Monitoring – With Whisper, parents cannot friend or follow their teen. There is no profile to see. The only way to know what they are doing on this app is to access it through their phone. And, if your kid has enabled their pin code, you will need to enter their code before you can see their activity.
This is an app where it far safer to be a lurker than a user. Whisper is not designed for teens and this is not an easy app to check up on. Teens may enjoy scrolling through the Popular or Featured feeds but they should wait and post their first whisper on their 18th birthday.
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